Saturday Nights ARTS on BBC Two, Autumn 2016

  • bbc Two to dedicate Saturday night programming to the arts, music, performance and cinema in autumn 2016
  • Kate Tempest and Alan Bennett amongst the finest talents in British culture to feature in ambitious run of performances, interviews, profiles and documentaries
  • Poets Sabrina Mahfouz, Michael Symmons Roberts, Liz Berry, Andrew McMillan, Imtiaz Dharker and Sean O’Brien capture a day in the lives of contemporary Britons in verse with Railway Nation: Across Britain In A Day (w/t)
  • Christie’s auction house to open its doors for the first time to bbc Two in Christie’s At 250 (w/t)
  • bbc Two to screen Young Men – the first ever feature film from all-male dance company BalletBoyz – the only dance company to release a full length film to date
  • bbc Two to partner with uk arts organisations including the BFI, Tate, Battersea Arts Centre and Arts Council England
  • bbc Two to launch Performance Live this autumn: a two-year project, produced in partnership with Arts Council England and Battersea Arts Centre, asking artists, producers and arts organisations from across England to produce programmes that challenge ideas about live performance

Jonty Claypole, Director, BBC Arts, says: “BBC Arts is all about openness – putting great art, world-class artists and the organisations who support them centre-stage. We’re thrilled to be working with some of the world’s finest talents, including Kate Tempest, BalletBoyz, Alan Bennett, Marlon James and Julie Walters to name but a few. And we couldn’t do this without the generosity and expertise of our partners, including Tate, Arts Council England, BFI, Battersea Arts Centre and the many organisations and charities working with us in the Love to Read campaign, such as the Reading Agency and the Book Trust. Together we can get more people engaging and participating in the arts right across the UK.”

Patrick Holland, Channel Editor, BBC Two, says: “From Civilisation to The Late Show, BBC Two has always been the flagship channel for arts on BBC Television, combining intelligent authorship with broad appeal, topical enquiry with entertainment. Great arts programming has the power to bring audiences to the cutting-edge, as well as to much loved art and artists. By focusing Saturday nights around arts, music, performance and cinema, we want to create space for new ideas, authored film-making, and the very best talent, from the world-class to the stars of tomorrow.”

Arts will take centre stage on Saturday nights from 1 October as, ahead of National Poetry Day, one of the UK’s leading spoken word performers Kate Tempest will take to the mic alongside a trio of exhilarating poetry talents and share stories from her latest work, Let Them Eat Chaos, on BBC Two.

The broadcast marks the first in a pioneering series of programmes for BBC Two called Performance Live (w/t) – a two-year project, produced in partnership with Battersea Arts Centre and Arts Council, England that will challenge a spectrum of exciting artists, producers and arts organisations to produce their own television programmes. These diverse and original commissions, spanning theatre, dance, comedy, spoken word, live-art and everything in-between, will be rooted in different parts of England and will explore the middle ground between live performance and television, shifting perceptions about what performance can be.

In the inaugural episode of Performance Live (w/t), co-produced by Battersea Arts Centre, a trio of spoken-word artists will crown an evening featuring Kate Tempest, who merges hip-hop, poetry and theatre, in a live performance of Let Them Eat Chaos, recorded in-front of a live audience at the Rivoli Ballroom in her neighborhood of Brockley, south-east London. This latest album from the writer, spoken word performer and recording artist traces the lives and stories of seven people living in the same south-east London street, who all find themselves awake at 4.18am.

Also in celebration of poetry BBC Two’s Railway Nation: Across Britain In A Day (w/t) will present Britain in verse. A modern twist on W.H Auden and Benjamin Britten’s The Night Mail, Railway Nation: Across Britain In A Day (w/t) sees six British Poets – Sabrina Mahfouz, Michael Symmons Roberts, Liz Berry, Andrew McMillan, Imtiaz Dharker and Sean O’Brien – observe and interpret the human stories of those on board one railway journey from London to Glasgow.

Jackie Kay, Lemn Sissay and Ian Duhig have written special poems which will feature in the BBC Two idents broadcast on poetry night.

Later in the autumn, BBC Two will open the doors to one of the world’s leading auction houses, Christie’s, as it celebrates its 250th anniversary. Christie’s At 250 (w/t) will chart the drama and excitement of this crucial year with a compelling cast of movers and shakers in the global art market and those who keep the auction house at top of its field.

Additionally, as the BBC in partnership with Tate prepare to broadcast the Turner Prize 2016 at Tate Britain, Artsnight presents the story of the world’s most prestigious contemporary arts prize, in the words of those closest to it – the winners, nominees and judges – in Artsnight: What Has The Turner Prize Ever Done For Us? (w/t). Finally, as Robert Rauschenberg’s major retrospective opens at Tate Modern, Alastair Sooke explores one of the most prolific and original artists to come from 20th Century America in Artsnight: Robert Rauschenberg (w/t).

Elsewhere in the autumn schedule, BBC Two will screen the first full-length feature film from all-male dance company BalletBoyz, Young Men. Fusing dance with the film and technology they are renowned for, BalletBoyz tell the story of a group of young soldiers as they experience the indiscriminate brutality of warfare.

Also in celebration of film, BBC Two will work with the BFI to show a run of late-night movies to support the Black Star season at cinemas uk wide, at BFI Southbank, on BFI Player and DVD. Films will be preceded by a personal introduction from a celebrated name.

As announced in May, BBC Two’s contribution to the BBC’s Love To Read campaign will see the channel dedicate three Saturday nights in October to books and reading. A unique selection of profiles, interviews, and documentaries and coverage of the Man Booker Prize will explore the lives and work of the most prolific writers – from the uk and beyond.

Highlights will see Julie Walters narrate The Secret Life Of Sue Townsend, Aged 68 ¾ (w/t), in which Stephen Mangan, Ian Hislop and Isy Suttie join Sue’s friends, family and members of her beloved community in Leicester to tell her extraordinary story. Having left school at 14, with no qualifications, by her early 20s she was a single mother living in poverty, struggling to feed her three children. Yet a decade later, she was the best-selling author of her generation, the success of The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole turning her in to a household name. Featuring some of Sue’s own previously unpublished diary entries as well as unseen photographs and footage, this film explores the life that led Sue Townsend to literary stardom.

That same Saturday Night, Julie Walters will lead the BBC Two audience into Artsnight: When Julie Walters Met Willy Russell (w/t) as she interviews the Liverpudlian lyricist and playwright and explores the background that shaped the mind behind Shirley Valentine and Blood Brothers – one of the most successful musicals in West End history.

As one of Britain’s most revered writers Alan Bennett releases his diaries from the last 10 years this autumn, a BBC Two documentary, Alan Bennett’s Diaries (w/t), reveals Bennett as he’s never been seen before, following the author of The History Boys and The Lady In The Van to the iconic places in his life – from New York to his local library in Primrose Hill – and revealing a man with as much satirical force in his 80s as he had in his 20s.

Other programmes celebrating literature announced in May are a BBC Two imagine… special, in which Alan Yentob profiles the charismatic and provocative Marlon James – the first Jamaican writer to win the Man Booker prize for his magisterial novel, A Brief History Of Seven Killings; Artsnight: Michael Palin Meets Jan Morris (w/t) in which comedian, actor and writer Michael Palin celebrates the work Jan Morris – the travel writer who conquered Mount Everest, interviewed Che Guevara and travelled the world to document the cities she visited in; and in the spirit of the BBC’s Love to Read campaign in which the BBC and partners invite everyone, everywhere to read something new, Javone Prince and Helen Skelton visit a school in Lancashire and take on the challenge to inspire pupils to make reading for pleasure a habit for life in The School That Ripped Up The Rule Book (w/t).

Performance Live (w/t)

Produced in partnership with Battersea Arts Centre and Arts Council England, Performance Live will showcase on BBC Two a spectrum of some of the most exciting artists working in performance today. This two-year series of programmes features the works of over a dozen artists, producers and arts organisations from across England, who have embraced the challenge of producing innovative pieces of live performance for television.

Programmes commissioned will embrace a range of contemporary art forms: theatre, dance, comedy, spoken-word, live-art and everything in between, as the result of a unique process to embed digital and television production skills at a grassroots level. Artists, producers and art organisations will be tooled up to make art in a new medium for new and larger audiences. Through exploring the middle ground between live performance and television, this series will challenge audience perceptions around what live performance can be.

Performance Live: Kate Tempest (w/t)

The first episode of Performance Live will broadcast in October 2016, as part of BBC Two’s dedication to arts on Saturday Nights. In this episode, co-produced with Battersea Arts Centre a trio of spoken-word artists curated by Kate Tempest will share bite-sized performances on themes of contemporary Britain.

Kate Tempest (pictured) picks up the mic to fuse hip-hop, poetry and theatre as she shares stories from her second album, Let Them Eat Chaos, filmed for BBC Two from the one-of-a-kind Rivoli Ballroom in her neighborhood of Brockley, south-east London. Let Them Eat Chaos is set in the early hours of one morning and traces the lives and stories of seven people, living on a south-east London street, who all find themselves awake at 4.18am.

Railway Nation: Across Britain In A Day (w/t)

This is Britain – in verse. Train carriages are one of the few spaces left in Britain where all walks of life meet. With British people now taking double the amount of train journeys they did in 1997, this programme celebrates Britain’s love of trains by asking six poets – Sabrina Mahfouz, Michael Symmons Roberts, Liz Berry, Andrew McMillan, Imtiaz Dharker and Sean O’Brien – to capture, in verse, the human stories of those on board one railway journey across the country.

Beginning in London and ending in Glasgow, Railway Nation: Across Britain In A Day follows a similar route to that which W.H Auden and Benjamin Britten took when they created Night Mail almost 80 years ago – a work which told the story of Britain as it slept one night. Railway Nation: Across Britain In A Day reinvents this journey for the 21st century by following travellers during the day.

The voices of travellers of all ages and backgrounds, and from across the different regions of Britain will be weaved with those of the six poets observing them, to capture a day in contemporary Britain. They’ll capture the meaning of these journeys, what the travellers are hoping for and even what becomes of them when they arrive. It’s a train journey which will reveal us to ourselves as we travel urgently, hopefully, despairingly towards our destinations.

Railway Nation: Across Britain In A Day (w/t) is produced by Blast! Films. It is directed by James House and the executive producer is Alistair Pegg, both for Blast! Films. It was commissioned for BBC Two by Mark Bell, Head of Arts Commissioning, BBC.

Christie’s At 250 (w/t)

Christie’s is the world’s largest auction house – a great British institution that has not only flourished across three centuries but has evolved into an international brand, pre-eminent in its field. It’s a name that conjures up great works of art, world-beating prices and the fine art of ‘the sell’. But outside of the saleroom we know little about the workings of this great British success story. Now, for the first time in its history, cameras have been given in depth access to its global empire, from New York to Shanghai and Dubai to Hong Kong.

This two-part series comes at a time when the stakes are high for the auction house. In 2016, Christie’s celebrates its 250th anniversary, and amid the celebrations the pressure is on to make this a ‘bumper year’. Yet the business faces a year of considerable challenges from global economic uncertainties to the fallout from Brexit.

Will enough great art works come through their doors? Can they achieve the sky high prices of recent years? Will their 250th year be a year to forget, rather than celebrate?

With exclusive access, we watch how this important year unfolds, charting the highs and the lows, filming the drama and excitement of sales of iconic art works at key auctions across the globe. The films uncover a compelling cast of auction ‘ insiders’ – movers and shakers from global art markets; the people who try to keep the wheels of this huge enterprise in motion. We see how Christie’s tries to attract the top consignors and buyers, and how its experts go about selling a rare work of art to get the top price.

This series will reveal what it takes to remain a market leader over hundreds of years, explore the fascinating turning points in the company’s colourful history and show how Christie’s approaches the task of always being at the crossroads of taste, collecting and wealth, in both old and new markets.

Christie’s at 250 (w/t) (2×60) is produced by Matchlight. The Series Producer and Director is Michael Waldman and the Executive Producers are Ross Wilson and Liz Hartford, all for Matchlight. It was commissioned by Mark Bell, Head of Arts Commissioning, BBC.

Artsnight: What Has The Turner Prize Ever Done For Us? (w/t)

The Turner Prize is probably the most prestigious contemporary art prize in the world. It puts art in the headlines, not always for the right reasons, bringing it to the attention of a wider audience in Britain. This episode of Artsnight looks back over three decades of critical acclaim, public outcry and artistic controversy. It hears from the winners, nominees and judges to find out what the history of the prize can tell us about our relationship to the relevance and purpose of contemporary art. This will be a story of the prize and its place in our culture, told by the people closest to it.

Artsnight: What Has The Turner Prize Ever Done For Us? (w/t) (1×30) is executive produced by Janet Lee for BBC Studios and was commissioned by Mark Bell, Head of Arts Commissioning, BBC.

Artsnight: Robert Rauschenberg (w/t)

Artsnight celebrates the protean genius of America’s most prolific and original artist, Robert Rauschenberg. Fearless and influential, he blazed a trail for artists in the second half of the 20th century, and yet his work is rarely seen here in the uk. That is about to change with a major retrospective at Tate Modern this December.

Rauschenberg was the first artist to win the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 1963, creating a crucial bridge between the Abstract Expressionists of the 50s and the Pop artists who emerged in the 60s.

Famous for his ‘Combines’ that elevated the rich junk of life to the status of high art, he continued to work right up to his death in 2008 collaborating with dancers, scientists and social activists on a startlingly broad array of projects. Presenter Alastair Sooke (pictured) travels to New York and to the artist’s paradise retreat on the island of Captiva in Florida to talk to those closest to Rauschenberg to get close to the boundless curiosity and restless experimentation that kept him engaged till the very end of his six-decade career.

Artsnight: Robert Rauschenberg (w/t) (1×60) is executive produced by Janet Lee for BBC Studios, it was commissioned by Mark Bell, Head of Arts Commissioning, BBC.

BalletBoyz’ Young Men

The internationally acclaimed, all-male dance company BalletBoyz is to present their first ever full-length feature film, Young Men. BalletBoyz, renowned for their use of film and technology in their performance work, will be the first ever dance company to release a feature length film.

Beautifully shot on location in northern France in 2015, this deeply moving film follows a young solider and his squadron’s experience of basic training, combat, and ultimately, the destruction of modern warfare. The film is shot without words, instead using the set and carefully choreographed dance to depict the devastation of a continent. The design, set and costume of Young Men is strongly evocative of World War One, whilst the characters themselves remain ambiguous, representative of the experiences of young men of every nation. The dancers, all who are members of the BalletBoyz ten-strong Company, are largely just of conscription age.

BalletBoyz Artistic Directors Michael Nunn OBE and William Trevitt OBE, along with critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Keaton Henson, who composed the score, worked closely to develop a visual language and musical style which simultaneously examines the experience of soldiers during a brutal and relentless war, and the wider themes of conflict.

Jan Younghusband, Head of Music TV Commissioning, says: “Mike and Billy are talented dancers and film-makers who bring a unique and entertaining perspective to dance and ballet. The BBC loves to work with artists to create original TV that puts them and their art-form centre stage, so I was delighted to commission their first full-length feature film. Young Men is an exciting new departure into dramatic story-telling in dance. Filmed entirely on location, it is a moving and harrowing insight into war, and the power of dance to express the world when words are not enough.”

Young Men (1×60) was commissioned for the BBC by Jan Younghusband. The 60-minute TV version will be premiere on BBC Two later this year, ahead of the release of the 72-minute feature film. The film is part of 14-18 NOW, the UK-wide arts programme for the centenary of the First World War.

The Secret Life of Sue Townsend, Age 68 ¾ (w/t)

Sue Townsend left school at 14, with no qualifications. By her early 20s, she was a single mother living in poverty, struggling to feed her three children. A decade later, how had she become the best-selling author of her time?

A highlight of the BBC’s Love to Read campaign, Julie Walters narrates The Secret Life Of Sue Townsend, Age 68 ¾: the extraordinary untold story of a working-class woman lacking connections, encouragement and opportunity, who achieved literary stardom through talent, luck, and an indefatigable will to write.

A critical and commercial smash, The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾, has sold over 10 million copies and has been into 48 languages. Its success made its author a household name, but Sue later said that no amount of balsamic vinegar or Prada handbags would make her forget what it was like to be poor. Her experiences from the margins of Leicester’s working classes, provided a rich source of inspiration throughout her life – in smash hits like The Queen And I, to lesser known works like Ghost Children.

The programme will draw on Townsend’s vast archive of letters and notebooks, as well as unseen photographs, footage and also Sue’s personal appointment diary, featuring poignant entries about her struggles with ill-health, written in the painfully honest style instantly recognisable to readers of her books. Never previously published, could this be Sue’s own secret diary?

Inspired by her famously egalitarian approach to literature, this warm, witty story of her life and work will be told with help from her working class community in Leicester; children from Sue’s old school, and her friends and family, sharing the stage with the comic and literary stars she inspired – including Stephen Mangan, Ian Hislop, Isy Suttie and Adrian Scarborough.

The Secret Life Of Sue Townsend, Age 68 ¾ (w/t) is produced by BBC Studios. The Executive Producer is Richard Bright and it is produced and directed by Jude Ho. It was commissioned by Mark Bell, Head of Arts Commissioning, BBC.

Artsnight: When Julie Walters Met Willy Russell (w/t)

Julie Walters, one of Britain’s most popular actresses, meets Willy Russell, the Liverpudlian lyricist and playwright, to find out how a 15 year-old dropout from a working class suburb of Liverpool become one of the most successful playwrights in modern British theatre history.

Russell’s screenplay Educating Rita would catapult Julie Walters to international stardom. He has written some of the most insightful and sensitive roles for women actors in modern British theatre history, including Shirley Valentine; Blood Brothers is one of the most successful musicals in West End history. But there is more to Russell’s talents than play-writing. As friend, collaborator, and comedic inquisitor, Julie uncovers Willy’s remarkably diverse creative passions – from an award winning record album, musical scores, novel-writing and most recently, painting.

In this unforgettable Liverpool reunion, Julie and Willy rehearse a John McGrath play on the new Everyman Theatre stage, visit the legendary men’s toilet at the Philharmonic Pub which inspired the play Stags And Hens, encounter eccentric local residents on the terrace house streets where Ringo Starr grew up – and dissect how the notion of ‘working class’ theatre has fundamentally changed since the heyday of Liverpool’s legendary The Everyman Theatre.

Artsnight: When Julie Walters Met Willy Russell (w/t) (1×30) is executive produced by Janet Lee for BBC Studios. It was commissioned by Mark Bell, Head of Arts Commissioning, BBC.

Alan Bennett’s Diaries (w/t)

A candid look into the mind of Alan Bennett, Britain’s best-loved writer, who, at 82, shows no signs of slowing down. Inspired by his acerbic and often hilarious diaries, this film shows Bennett as he’s never been seen before – following him to New York, the scene of his early triumph in Beyond The Fringe, to accept an award from the city’s Public Library; to Shepherd’s Bush to record an episode of Private Passions for Radio 3 and open up about the importance of music in his life; to his local community-run library in Primrose Hill which, he despairs, some would rather see turned into a Pizza Hut; to the East Coast railway line, which he’d like to see renationalised, and the village in Yorkshire he calls home.

Intimate encounters, filmed over the course of a year, reveal a writer who is bemused by his own popularity and is still as angry and irreverent in his 80s as he was in his 20s. Bennett speaks about his relationship with his partner of 23 years, Rupert Thomas, describes a recent trip to his barber in Camden Town, and confesses that he’s always wanted to keep a donkey.

Leafing through private photographs he reflects on his modest beginnings and his enduring gratitude to a Welfare State that paid for his education and looked after his parents in their old age. With a satirical force that has never left him, Bennett also attacks the politics of today. Alan Bennett’s Diaries (1×70) is directed by Bafta and Emmy Award-winning director Adam Low, produced by Martin Rosenbaum for Lone Star Productions, and commissioned for BBC Two by Mark Bell, Head of Arts Commissioning BBC.

Alan Bennett’s Diaries Live

Alan Bennett’s Diaries Live will include the premiere of Alan Bennett’s Diaries, a new film about the writer, followed by an exclusive Q&A with Alan Bennett broadcast live from his local community library in Primrose Hill. This event will be broadcast to cinemas across the country on 16 November 2016 courtesy of Picturehouse Entertainment.

Imagine…The Seven Killings Of Marlon James (w/t)

2015 was a momentous year for novelist Marlon James. He became the first Jamaican writer to win the Man Booker prize for his magisterial novel A Brief History Of Seven Killings, about the events surrounding the attempted assassination of Bob Marley and their aftermath.

He also chose to come out as gay in an article for the New York Times – a brave move for a man born in what has been called the world’s most homophobic country. Alan Yentob accompanies the charismatic and provocative James back to Jamaica and finds in his three highly praised novels a complex portrait of the turbulent history of his native country.

imagine . . . The Seven Killings of Marlon James (w/t) is produced by Storyvault Films for BBC Studios. It was commissioned by imagine. Colette Camden is Producer / Director.

Artsnight: Michael Palin Meets Jan Morris (w/t)

Veteran broadcaster Michael Palin travels to north Wales to interview the legendary travel writer Jan Morris.

Originally born as James Morris, Jan shot to fame as part of the team that successfully climbed Mt Everest in 1953. She spent the rest of decade as a journalist travelling the world, interviewing figures such as Che Guevara, and producing reports for BBC Panorama from Hong Kong and Japan.

In the 1960s she turned her attention to writing books about cities and countries, before undergoing gender reassignment in 1972, a process chronicled in her autobiography Conundrum. Now in her 90th year, Michael Palin meets Jan and finds out the secret to her long and happy life.

Artsnight: Michael Palin meets Jan Morris (w/t) (1X30) is executive produced for BBC Studios by Janet Lee. It was commissioned by Mark Bell, Head of Arts Commissioning BBC.

The School That Ripped Up The Rule Book (w/t)

Ripley Academy is the biggest and one of the most successful schools in Lancashire, but despite its outstanding Ofsted report the Academy can’t get its pupils to engage in one of the most important skills imaginable – reading.

It’s a problem secondary schools and parents are facing across the country. Ripley has exhausted every technique and tried hundreds of books. Now it’s time for something completely new: they’ve invited actor and comedian Javone Prince to shake things up a bit – and life in school is about to change. With the help of local lass and reading champion Helen Skelton, Javone’s mission is to inspire Ripley’s most reluctant readers to take the plunge, and make reading for pleasure a habit for life.

The School That Ripped Up The Rule Book (w/t) (1×60) is produced by BBC Studios. The executive producer is Jo Roe. It was commissioned by Mark Bell, Head of Arts Commissioning BBC.

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